A FORMER employee with one of the Mid-West’s biggest construction firms died when his airway became obstructed after eating a chicken sandwich and some peanuts, Limerick Coroner’s Court heard.
The inquest of Eoin Bateman, 41, from Knockalisheen, Meelick, heard that he had been watching TV with his wife Diana at around 10.30pm on Sunday, February 10 of this year, when he asked her to change the channel and suddenly his body stiffened and he was left gasping for air.
She told the court that Eoin, who worked with Chieftain Construction, had eaten a chicken sandwich at around 9.15pm, and had consumed a couple of peanuts after that, but said he had no food in his mouth at the time.
She called an ambulance and contacted her next door neighbour, Edel Sherlock, who has been a registered nurse for over 22 years.
She found him unconscious on the couch and began CPR, after finding no pulse.
Ms Sherlock said he was suffered from agonal breathing, or was “gasping for air”, but did not look like someone who has choking. She examined the inside of his mouth and found a “tiny bit of peanut brittle”.
A doctor in the University Hospital Limerick said that there were two possible and inter-linked causes for this death – that his heart stopped after his airways became obstructed, or that the obstruction triggered his cardiac arrest, but couldn’t say which event occurred first.
Dr Elizabeth Mulcahy, who performed the autopsy, said his death was due to acute cardio-respiratory arrest, secondary to brain damage and mechanical asphyxia.
While asphyxia or choking can sometimes have a “sinister meaning”, she said in this case it was as a result of the lack or deprivation of oxygen due to food lodged in an airway.
“I don’t think it’s an entirely clear-cut case..I don’t think we’ll get all the answers we’re looking for,” she said.
Dr Mulcahy added that a major obstruction of an airway, independent to a cardiac arrest, “could have caused his demise”, and stated that this cardio-respiratory failure resulted in brain damage.
She said she couldn’t explain why it took an hour after Mr Bateman had eaten for him to become symptomatic and said “we may never know”.
Mrs Bateman said she wished to state that she was “very happy with the standard of care” her husband received in hospital in the last week of his life.
Her barrister said she was trying to ascertain if their seven-year-old son Jack could be predisposed to any medical conditions.
The coroner, Dr Timothy Casey, expressed his sympathy to the family on this “very sad event”, which was also expressed by the gardai and the jury.
He is survived by his wife Diana, son Jack and father John Joe, and is pre-deceased by his mother Nell.
He passed away a week later on Sunday, February 17, and was buried in Ballycannon cemetery.